Hank Mowery – Excuses Plenty | Album Review

hankmowerycdHank Mowery – Excuses Plenty

Blue Bella Records 2015


10 tracks; 35 minutes 

In 2013 Hank Mowery released his first CD, Account To Me, a warm tribute to his late friend Gary Primich.  The CD was very well received and won the award for the best produced independent release at the 2014 IBC’s.  Now Hank has released a second CD and this one features four of his own compositions, three co-writes (with Gary Primich, Keith Litteral, Nick Evans Mowery) plus three covers. Hank handles lead vocals and harp with his own band, The Hawktones, on half the tracks: Troy Amaro, guitar, Chris Corey, keys, Patrick Recob, bass, John Large, drums.  On three tracks the rhythm section is Pete Curry on drums and Larry Taylor on bass and on two cuts Doug Deming & The Jewel Tones support Hank: Doug Deming, guitar, Dennis Gruenling, harp, Andrew Gohman, bass, Danny Banks, drums.  Other guests are Mike Morgan, guitar on two tracks, Jimmie Stagger, guitar on one, Claude Nine, bass on one and guitar on another, Theo Ndawillie II, drums on one track and Matt Mason who adds backing vocals to two.  The CD was recorded in Hank’s hometown of Grand Rapids, MI.

The album opens in rocking style with “Anna Lee”, Hank’s tale of a wild child (“sailor’s mouth, bedroom eyes”) the Hawktones on great form with rocking piano, guitar and the bass lines doubled up with Patrick and Claude playing together.  Hank has a good voice, here with a little echo on it, and plays swinging harp.  We switch into more of a soul vibe with “I Don’t Want To Know”, a gentle ballad by David John with ‘twangy’ guitar mixing with some soulful chords, Claude and Troy working together. The title track “Excuses Plenty” brings a swampy feel courtesy of Troy’s guitar that sounds like John Fogerty in CCR days and Hank’s lyrics reveal some real concerns about his relationship: “Your excuses plenty, your reasons few for the life you’re living, the wrong you do.  Confession can’t even up your score; I worry about my soul, baby; you worry about yours”.  Hank sang with Mike Morgan & The Crawl some years ago and here Mike guests on two tracks: first we get some Texas blues with a Mexican vibe, especially in the guitar, on “Walk With Me” on which Hank’s excellent harp solo is a model of concision; “One And Only” has more swing, a short track with some more solid guitar from Mike, reminding us that we have not heard a release from him for some considerable time.  It is also the first of three consecutive tracks with the Larry Taylor/Pete Curry rhythm section and is followed by “Little Bit Of Rhythm” and “Cry For Me”.  Hank does not play any harp on these two cuts though on the former he sings through the harp mike over some insistent picking from Troy and strong B3 from Corey; the latter is more upbeat, almost a touch of early era Beatles here and that slightly ‘old-fashioned’ feel is added to by the strange sounds of Corey’s clavioline (no, I had never heard of it either!).

On the next two tracks Doug Deming’s band takes over, recorded during a weekend off during a tour.  The lovely ballad “Would You Still Love Me On A Rainy Day” has Dennis Gruenling on harp, demonstrating his ability to sound almost like a horn section at times, a well-judged solo from Doug and a superb vocal from Hank; mention should also be made of Danny’s delicate brush work on this late-night piece.  Hank and Dennis share harp duties on a storming version of William Clarke’s “Telephone Is Ringing”, the Jewel Tones really kicking the tune along as both harpists take exciting solos and Doug again excels in his solo contribution.  The final cut is a short solo rendition (1.43) of Skip James’ “I’m So Glad” by Jimmie Stagger on guitar – a nice finish though somewhat out of kilter with the rest of the album.

This is a very enjoyable album with some fine singing and playing from Hank, well supported by both his own Hawktones and the other guest musicians.  The concise nature of the songs means that there are no drawn-out solos and that avoids any dull moments.   However, the total running time is short by modern standards. It would have been great to hear a couple more of Hank’s songs to put the icing on the cake.  Nevertheless, this is an album that is easy to recommend.

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